Rate of Interchange Between East Australia and West Australia Humpback Whales

Project Name:
Rate of Interchange Between East Australia and West Australia Humpback Whales

Project Dates:  
Ongoing - 2012

Project Site(s):  
Cairns/Cooktown Management Area of the Great Barrier Marine Park, Whitsunday Management Area of the Great Barrier Marine Park, Islands, Hervey Bay, Great Sandy Marine Park, QLD, and Eden, NSW

Project Aims:
Determine rate of interchange between east Australia (Breeding Stock E-1) and west Australia (Breeding Stock D) humpback whales.

Project Justification:
Discovery marks were employed to uncover the first exchange between east and west Australia breeding grounds when, during the summer of 1958–59, ten whales originally marked in Area V were recovered in Area IV. Two of the ten marked Area V whales were killed off the Western Australian coast later that winter. Noad et al. (2000), report observations of west Australian songs introduced into, and adopted by, east Australian humpbacks, apparently due to migration between the two locations. Anderson and Brasseur (2007), examining molecular data, found moderate gene flow between breeding stocks D and E but failed to find any genotype matches.  

PWF (2011) reported the first photographic documentation of an inter-ocean movement of an individual humpback whale from the Pacific Ocean, east Australia (BS-E1) to the Indian Ocean, west Australia (BS-D) based on a limited comparison with one animal. The recent discovery of large longitudinal movements of individual humpback whales between oceans (Stevick et al., 2010, 2011), coupled with our finding, suggest the prevalence of inter-breeding ground exchanges of southern hemisphere humpback whale populations is poorly understood and warrants further study with all available data.

Project Methodology:
Digital fluke and lateral body photographs will be collected for each identified whale using established procedures and Canon 5D and Canon 7D digital cameras equipped with motor drives and 100-300mm or 70-200mm lenses (Forestell et al., 2003). Identification photographs will be compared to Pacific Whale Foundation's Southern Hemisphere Humpback Whale Catalogue and to the ID catalogues held by: Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalog, College of the Atlantic, Centre for Whale Research, Western Whale Research and the Department of Environment and Conservation.

Project Permits:
Historical data collected under prior permits. 

Current research:

  • NSW Government: Office of Environment and Heritage: Permit Number SL100195
  • Queensland Government, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation: Permit Number 307
  • Queensland Government, Department of Environment and Resource Management: Permit Number QS2011/GS040
  • Queensland Government, Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority: Permit Number G11/34324.1
  • Queensland Government, Environmental Protection Agency: Permit Number:  WISP07811910
  • Commonwealth of Australia, Department of Environment and Water Resources: Permit Number C2011-003

Animal Ethics Approvals:

  • NSW Government, Department of Industry and Investment, Animal Research Authority, Animal Care and Ethics Committee
  • Queensland Government, Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation

Collaborators:
Antarctic Humpback Whale Catalog, College of the Atlantic, Centre for Whale Research, Western Whale Research and Department of Environment and Conservation

Management Outcomes:
Research findings will establish rates of interchange for Breeding Stock E-1 and D animals which will be critical in developing population models for the completion of the IWC’s Comprehensive Assessment of Southern Hemisphere humpback whales Breeding Stocks D, E and F.

Publications/Presentations:  
See Pacific Whale Foundation Publication/Presentation Summary